Here's our look at the Trump administration and the rest of Washington:
- Hillary Clinton speaks in Washington D.C., criticizes Trump's spending plan
- Former Trump advisor Michael Flynn offers to testify in return for immunity
- Trump threatens to fight his own party's hard-right flank in 2018 elections
- Senate Intelligence Committee vows to follow facts in Trump-Russia probe
- Judge in Hawaii extends order blocking Trump's travel ban
- Ivanka Trump gets formal position in White House
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) traveled to the White House Friday to view documents President Trump has said partially vindicate his claim that his predecessor ordered surveillance of him during the campaign.
In a statement, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said he was told they were “precisely the same materials” viewed previously by the committee’s chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Tulare), which Schiff said should now be shared with the full panel membership.
“Nothing I could see today warranted a departure from the normal review procedures,” Schiff said, adding that he could not discuss the contents of the documents, which remain classified.
Nunes was shown the documents last week by White House officials surreptitiously, then announced to reporters the next day that he needed urgently to go to the White House to brief Trump about them.
Schiff, in his statement, said that “the White House has yet to explain why senior White House staff apparently shared these materials with but one member of either [Intelligence] committee, only for their contents to be briefed back to the White House."
Schiff also had a brief but “cordial” meeting with Trump during his time at the White House, a spokesman said.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters earlier Friday that other Democrats have been invited to the White House to view the materials, which he said would “shed light” on their investigation.
Both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees are conducting separate reviews of Russian interference into the 2016 election; Trump has asked each panel to also probe his own claim that his predecessor engaged in wire tapping of his phones at Trump Tower during the campaign, an assertion that has been denied by Nunes as well as the heads of the FBI and intelligence agencies.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Friday told a top government ethics official he should not have publicly plugged “The Lego Batman Movie” — a film in which he has a financial stake — and promised to “exercise greater caution” in the future.
“I take very seriously my ethical responsibilities as a presidential appointee and the head of the Department of the Treasury,” Mnuchin wrote to Walter Shaub, director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics.
On Monday, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) asked Shaub to determine whether Mnuchin had committed an ethics violation last week when he discussed the movie during an event hosted by the Axios news website that aired on C-SPAN2.
The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee says it's too early to consider an immunity deal for President Trump's former national security advisor.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) says that Michael Flynn even discussing possible immunity in exchange for protection from prosecution is a "grave and momentous" step because of the seniority of his former position.
Schiff says the House Intelligence Committee is interested in hearing Flynn's story, but there would have to be coordination with the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Justice Department on the terms.
The House and Senate intelligence committees and the FBI are investigating Russia's meddling in the 2016 election. The investigation includes scrutiny of Flynn's ties with Russia.
The Trump administration on Friday fired back at California's top judge, disputing her characterization this month that federal immigration agents were "stalking" courthouses to make arrests.
In a letter to Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, leaders of Trump's Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security objected to her description of federal agents' conduct.
"As the chief judicial officer of the state of California, your characterization of federal law enforcement is particularly troubling," wrote Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, objecting to Cantil-Sakauye's use of the word "stalking."
They said agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) were using courthouses to arrest immigrants in the U.S. illegally, in part, because California and some of its local jurisdictions prohibit their officials from cooperating with federal agencies in detaining such immigrants under most conditions.
Sessions and Kelly told California's top judge that she should consider taking her concerns to Gov. Jerry Brown and the cities and counties that limit local law enforcement's involvement with immigration agents.
Cantil-Sakauye, a former prosecutor who rose through the judicial ranks as an appointee of Republican governors, said through a spokesman that she appreciated the Trump administration's "admission that they are in state courthouses making federal arrests."
"Making arrests at courthouses, in my view, undermines public safety because victims and witnesses will fear coming to courthouses to help enforce the law," she said Friday.
She expressed disappointment that courthouses, given local and state public safety concerns, were not listed as sensitive areas offlimits to agents. Federal policy lists schools, churches and hospitals as "sensitive areas."
The letter from the Justice Department officials defended the arrests of immigrants at courthouses.
By apprehending suspects after they have passed through security screening at courthouses, federal agents are less likely to encounter anyone who is armed, the letter said.
"The arrest of individuals by ICE officers and agents is predicated on investigation and targeting of specific persons who have been identified by ICE and other law enforcement agencies as subject to arrest," they wrote.
Cantil-Sakauye had asked the Trump administration on March 16 to stop immigration agents from seeking immigrants at the state's courthouses.
“Courthouses should not be used as bait in the necessary enforcement of our country’s immigration laws,” she wrote in a letter to Sessions and Kelly.
Her letter did not say which courthouses had been the location of such “stalking,” but judges and lawyers in Southern California have complained of seeing immigration agents posted near courts.
She said she feared the practice would erode public trust in the state courts.
Sessions and Kelly urged Cantil-Sakauye to speak to Brown and other officials "who have enacted policies that occasionally necessitate ICE officers and agents to make arrests at courthouses and other public places."
Hillary Clinton stepped back into the spotlight this week after laying relatively low since the election, and she had some advice for President Trump: Tear up the White House budget plan.
Clinton was at the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security to bestow an award named in her honor to Colombian leaders who helped bring an end to war in that country and elevate the role of women in the peace process.
She spoke of the progress the world has made in advancing women’s rights since she spoke forcefully on the issue two decades ago when the U.N. gathered world leaders to address it in Beijing. But she warned that progress is threatened by Trump.
“We are seeing signals of a shift that should alarm us all,” Clinton said. “This administration’s proposed cuts to international health, development and diplomacy would be a blow to women and children and a grave mistake for our country.”
Clinton then raised the letter signed by 120 former generals and admirals beseeching the Trump administration not to make the cuts.
“These distinguished men and women who have served in uniform recognize that turning our back on diplomacy won’t make our country safer. It will undermine our security and our standing in the world.”
A lot has changed since Clinton was on the campaign trail, but some things about her style on the stump haven’t. She pulled out a favorite line from last year as she began to talk about a study that backed up her point about the damage Trump’s budget plan could do.
“Here I go again,” Clinton said to whooping and cheering from an audience of mostly female students, “talking about research evidence and facts.”
President Trump won his office in spite of the best efforts of some in his party.
Now, the tenuous nature of the bonds between Trump and the GOP are increasingly on public display as the president openly feuds with conservatives and White House officials debate whether to reach out to Democrats in order to restart his domestic agenda.
The latest and strongest evidence came Thursday as Trump escalated his political battle against the members of the House Freedom Caucus, the conservative lawmakers who helped block the healthcare bill he backed.
Early in the morning, he said on Twitter that the caucus would “hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don’t get on the team.”
“We must fight them, & Dems, in 2018!” he added.
It was an extraordinary message, suggesting that Trump might try to back challengers in primaries against lawmakers of his own party — something few presidents have tried, none with much success.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Friday promised NATO allies that the United States will stand by their side but also expected them to spend more on defense and do more to fight terrorism.
Tillerson participated in a day of discussions with foreign ministers from the 27 other NATO member nations, his first with the full roster of allies, who were sent scrambling last week to accommodate the top U.S. diplomat after he said he could not attend the meeting originally planned for early April.
"The United States is committed to ensuring NATO has the capabilities to support our collective defense. We understand that a threat against one of us is a threat against all of us," Tillerson said.
But, he added, "as President Trump has made clear, it is no longer sustainable for the U.S. to maintain a disproportionate share of NATO’s defense expenditures."
The United States is amping up pressure on NATO members to increase their defense spending to 2% of gross domestic product, in line with a 2014 agreement among the alliance's 28 member countries to meet the target by 2024.
Only five NATO countries meet the 2% threshold. The U.S. spends 3.61% of its GDP on defense, more than any other member of the alliance.
Tillerson said that if countries have not met the 2% spending goal by the end of the year, they should at least have a concrete plan "that clearly articulates how, with annual milestone progress commitments, the pledge will be fulfilled.”
Pressure to meet that strict deadline is likely to upset some allies.
German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel told reporters before Friday's meeting that he thinks it would be “completely unrealistic” for Germany to bring its military defense spending up to 2% of GDP.
“I don't know any politician in Germany who thinks that this would be reachable or desirable,” Gabriel said.
Germany is increasing its military spending this year to $39 billion, or 1.2% of its GDP. Gabriel rejected the Trump administration's focus on military expenditures, arguing that humanitarian aid and Germany's spending to take in refugees should be considered part of the defense budget.
Tillerson also called on allies to take a greater role in the fight against terrorism.
"NATO can and should do more," he said. "Fighting terrorism is the top national security priority for the United States, as it should be for all of us."
Tillerson's earlier announcement that he would skip the meeting struck a nerve among the alliance members, coming at a sensitive time when tensions between the Trump administration and NATO allies have soared.
The schedule change caused an awkward protocol shuffle, with a handful of foreign ministers unable to make it to Brussels. What was supposed to be a two-day meeting was compressed into half of a day.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg tried to cast optimism on the last-minute schedule change, calling it “a sign of the strong transatlantic unity and flexibility of our alliance that we were able to find a date.”
The foreign ministers' meeting is crucial because it lays the groundwork for a NATO summit with heads of state in May, which will be President Trump's first overseas trip since taking office.
Tillerson's day of talks at NATO headquarters in Brussels follows visits from Defense Secretary James Mattis and Vice President Mike Pence, who attempted to dispel fears that the Trump administration will seek to loosen ties with the alliance.
Trump called NATO “obsolete” in an interview published days before his inauguration. He later insisted, during German Chancellor Angela Merkel's visit to the White House earlier this month, that the U.S. will maintain its “strong commitment” to the alliance.
Tillerson arrived in Brussels on Friday morning after meeting Thursday in Ankara, Turkey, with that country's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu to discuss terrorism and Syria, though the leaders failed to reach an agreement on how to combat Islamic State.
President Trump’s former national security advisor, retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, is seeking immunity from prosecution in return for testifying to the House and Senate intelligence committees, a congressional aide said. The development was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.
"Gen. Flynn certainly had a story to tell, and he very much wants to tell it, should the circumstances permit," his lawyer, Robert Kelner, said in a statement. "No reasonable person, who has the benefit of advice from counsel, would submit to questioning in such a highly politicized, witch-hunt environment without assurances from unfair prosecution."
On Friday morning, Trump tweeted his support for Flynn's request.
Flynn was ousted as Trump's national security advisor last month after news reports disclosed that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence about phone conversations with Sergey Kislyak, Russia's ambassador to the U.S.
The calls were picked up by U.S. surveillance targeting the Russian envoy, and a description of the contents was leaked to the Washington Post after the Justice Department warned the White House that Flynn could be subject to blackmail.
President Trump's former national security advisor, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, has been seeking immunity from prosecution in return for testifying to the House and Senate intelligence committees, a congressional official confirmed Thursday.
The negotiations were first reported by the Wall Street Journal.
In a statement, Flynn's lawyer, Robert Kelner, said "Gen. Flynn certainly had a story to tell and he very much wants to tell it, should the circumstances permit."
"No reasonable person, who has the benefit of advice from counsel, would submit to questioning in such a highly politicized, witch-hunt environment without assurances from unfair prosecution."
Trump fired Flynn three weeks into the new administration after news reports disclosed that he had lied to White House colleagues, including Vice President Mike Pence, about his contacts with Sergey Kislyak, Russia's ambassador to the U.S.
In December, Flynn had telephone conversations with Kislyak in which he discussed sanctions that the Obama administration had recently imposed on Russia to punish Moscow for its interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Flynn denied to Pence and other officials that he had discussed the sanctions with Kislyak.
So far, the committees, which are investigating Russian interference and whether anyone close to Trump colluded with Moscow, have not taken Flynn up on his offer, the Journal reported.
The Department of Justice has appealed a Hawaii court order that brought President Trump's travel ban to a national halt.
The government has argued that the president was well within his authority to restrict travel from six Muslim-majority countries and put a pause on refugee resettlement.
The appeal Thursday to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals came a day after U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson in Honolulu refused to dismiss his temporary block of the travel ban that he issued on March 15.
With the appeal, the government is now fighting to reinstate the travel ban in two appeals courts on opposite ends of the country. That increases the likelihood that one of the cases will make it to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Earlier this month, the Department of Justice appealed a Maryland district judge's order against the travel ban to the U.S. 4th District Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va.
Both rulings in Hawaii and Maryland said Trump's executive order discriminated against Muslims. Watson and U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang in Maryland cited Trump's campaign promises to suspend Muslim travel to the U.S. as proof of his order's anti-Muslim bias.
The Hawaii ruling is broader than the Maryland one. It blocks a 90-day pause on travel to the U.S. from nationals of six majority-Muslim countries and a 120-day moratorium on new refugee resettlement. The Maryland ruling only halted the ban on travel into the U.S. by citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
The 9th Circuit, which has jurisdiction over nine Western states, is the same court where a panel of three judges denied a government request last month to reverse ruling against the first travel ban by a federal judge in Washington state.
Trump, in turn, lambasted the "bad court" and signed a new executive order on travel on March 6 that was modified in an attempt to survive court challenges.
One of the Senate’s most serious jobs – confirming the president’s choice for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court – has devolved into a game of political chicken.
Senators are heading toward an institution-defining showdown next week as Democrats promise to try to block President Trump’s nominee, Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, with a filibuster, a rarely seen maneuver for high court appointments.
Republicans are threatening to respond by changing long-standing Senate rules to circumvent the 60 votes that would be needed to overcome a filibuster. Instead they would allow confirmation with a simple majority.
The outcome has the potential to not only shape the future of the Supreme Court — which has been without a full bench since the sudden death of Justice Antonin Scalia last year — it also could crush one final vestige of bipartisanship in the Senate, altering the upper chamber for years to come.
The battle over the Supreme Court seat was always expected to be a partisan affair in today’s heated political climate. But the polemics intensified after the Republican majority denied President Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, a confirmation hearing ahead of last year’s presidential election.
It’s been more than 400 days since Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s death left his seat vacant. With Republicans having blocked a vote on then-President Obama's nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, and with Senate Democrats now making plans to filibuster President Trump's nominee, Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, it could take even longer to replace Scalia.
It’s not unheard of for a justice’s seat to remain empty for a considerable amount of time. Pew Research Center did the math and found that the longest gap was 841 days, in the mid-1840s, from the time of Henry Baldwin's death to his replacement Robert Grier's confirmation.
But the last time in recent history that a vacancy's duration in this range occurred was after Abe Fortas resigned in 1969. It took 391 days to fill that seat, an interval that ended in 1970 when Harry Blackmun – the justice who authored the court's landmark opinion in Roe vs. Wade – was confirmed. Blackmun was President Nixon’s third pick to fill that seat.
The second-longest vacancy in recent years occurred in 1988. It took 237 days to fill Lewis Powell’s seat after he retired, with Anthony Kennedy succeeding him.
It’s been 58 days and counting since Trump nominated Gorsuch. Here’s how his waiting time from nomination to confirmation stacks up against the current justices:
- Elena Kagan: 87 days
- Sonia Sotomayor: 66 days
- Samuel A. Alito Jr.: 82 days
- John G. Roberts Jr.: 23 days
- Stephen G. Breyer: 73 days
- Ruth Bader Ginsburg: 50 days
- Clarence Thomas: 99 days
- Anthony M. Kennedy: 65 days
If Gorsuch is confirmed soon, he won't start considering cases until the court’s new term in October.
And if he’s not confirmed? Trump would nominate another successor to Scalia – there’s no limit on how many times he can do that. Until Scalia’s seat is filled, lower courts' decisions serve as tie-breakers.
Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota became the first Democrats to say they will vote for Judge Neil Gorsuch and not support the effort to filibuster his confirmation to the Supreme Court.
Their announcements came as no surprise. Both are centrists who have to run for reelection next year in states that voted overwhelmingly for Trump.
"After considering his record, watching his testimony in front of the Judiciary Committee and meeting with him twice, I will vote to confirm him to be the ninth justice on the Supreme Court," Manchin said. "I have found him to be an honest and thoughtful man.... I have not found any reasons why this jurist should not be a Supreme Court justice."
Heitkamp said she was impressed with Gorsuch's record as a judge. "This vote does not diminish how disturbed I am by what the Republicans did to Judge [Merrick] Garland," referring to the GOP-led Senate's refusal last year to consider President Obama's choice to fill the seat of the late Justice Antonin Scalia. "But I was taught that two wrongs don't make a right," she said.
The Republican majority in the Senate needs six more Democrats to join with them if they hope to stop the expected filibuster of President Trump's Supreme Court nominee.
It takes 60 votes to end the debate under the Senate's current rules. But the 52 Republicans may vote to simply eliminate this requirement if the Democrats stand firm against Gorsuch.
On Monday, the Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to approve Gorsuch on a party line vote and send the nomination to the Senate floor. A final vote is expected April 7.
The White House has invited House and Senate intelligence committee chairs to review documents that it says were recently discovered by national security staff that could help determine whether information gathered about American citizens was mishandled.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer would not say whether these are the same documents that Rep. Devin Nunes, the Tulare Republican who chairs the House intelligence committee, said he reviewed last week.
Nunes has refused to identify his sources. Some saw his disclosure as an attempt to give credence to President Trump's widely refuted claim that President Obama had ordered wiretaps on his phone during the campaign. Nunes said the material he reviewed suggested that intelligence agencies had incidentally collected information about Trump or his associates. He has declined to be more specific or share the information with the committee.
But the New York Times reported Thursday, citing unnamed sources, that two White House officials helped Nunes get access to the documents. And now the same information may be provided to other members of the Intelligence committee.
In a letter to the bipartisan group of intelligence leaders sent Thursday, White House Counsel Donald McGhan said administration lawyers would supervise the review “given the sensitivity of the documents” to “protect the extremely sensitive intelligence sources and methods.”
The letter calls on the committee to investigate the possibility that classified information was inappropriately gathered and handled and whether civil liberties of American citizens were violated.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told reporters that he welcomed the chance to review the materials, though he said he would be obligated to share them with the rest of his committee.
More troubling to Schiff, he said, was the “cloak and dagger stuff” and “circuitous route” that the White House national security staff appears to have used to disseminate the materials in that secret meeting with Nunes. Schiff said White House staff may have been trying to “launder information through the committee,” rather than simply providing it directly to the president.
“If that was designed to hide the origin of the materials, that raises profound questions about just what the White House is doing,” Schiff said. “We need to get to the bottom of whether this was some sort of stratagem by the White House.”
In a letter to McGhan, Schiff said answering the White House’s questions would require asking intelligence agencies how the information in the documents was gathered.
“I hope you will confirm to the committee whether these materials are the same as those first shared with” Nunes, Schiff wrote.
2:11: This story was updated with staff reporting
The FBI is investigating possible coordination between people associated with the Trump campaign and Russian authorities during the 2016 election. The U.S. intelligence community has said it is confident that the Russian government directed hacking operations and “intended to interfere with the U.S. election process.”
Take a look at how some high-profile people have been drawn into the investigation. See the graphic »
A former top Republican National Committee official and ally of White House chief of staff Reince Priebus will depart her West Wing post in the first significant shake-up of President Trump's senior staff.
Politico first reported that Katie Walsh, the deputy White House chief of staff, will leave to take on an advisory position with political groups that were formed to support the president's agenda from the outside.
Walsh had served as chief of staff at the RNC when Priebus was party chair. At the White House, she served in a similar capacity under Priebus, tasked with overseeing the senior staff and the scheduling operation.
Though White House officials denied the move was a signal of disharmony within the senior ranks, her departure spoke to issues dogging the new administration — a top-heavy operation in the West Wing and also the inability of the president to sustain the kind of grassroots support for his agenda that proved key to his electoral win.
"It was abundantly clear we didn't have air cover when it came to the calls coming into lawmakers, and nobody can fix this problem like Katie Walsh," Priebus told reporters later, according to Time.
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan commiserated with President Trump Thursday after the president launched a Twitter assault on the group of rebellious Republicans known as the Freedom Caucus.
"I understand the frustration, I share the frustration,” Ryan told reporters Thursday, when asked to respond to Trump's threat to campaign against fellow Republicans.
Freedom Caucus members, who back limited government and have defined themselves in opposition to the Washington establishment, have been a major headache for GOP leaders. Ever since the Republicans took control of the House in 2010, conservative refusal to back key bills to fund government agencies has forced GOP leaders to negotiate with Democrats for the votes they need.
Freedom Caucus members helped lead the charge against former Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio).
The caucus was blamed by many Republicans last week for torpedoing the leadership's plan, backed by Trump, to make significant changes to Obamacare.
Still, Trump's threat to "fight them" in the 2018 elections was an extraordinary step. Trump had previously made electoral threats against wayward members of his party, but Thursday's tweet was especially direct, threatening to treat them the same way as Democrats.
Freedom Caucus members have begun pushing back aggressively. A spokeswoman for the group argued on Twitter that Trump did not have his facts right and that Republican moderates were equally responsible for sinking the healthcare bill.
Finding Trump supporters to challenge Republicans in a primary would be hard and could further thrust the GOP into civil war.
Trump, despite low poll numbers nationally, remains popular in core Republican districts. Many members of Congress, however, ran ahead of him in their districts in the last election.
The president has also suggested he might be open to cutting deals with Democrats, something the White House has discussed but not followed through on. That would also be difficult, given the rancor on the left.
Ryan said Thursday that the best path is for Republicans to come together on healthcare and other issues
"About 90% of our conference is for this bill to repeal and replace Obamcare, and about 10% are not. And that's not enough to pass a bill," he said.
"What I am encouraging our members to do is to keep talking with each other until we can get the consensus to pass this bill. But it's very understandable that the president is frustrated that we haven't gotten to where we need to go, because this is something that we all said we would do."
Republicans needed Vice President Mike Pence to cast a tie-breaking vote Thursday in the Senate to advance legislation that rolls back rules preventing states from withholding certain federal funds to Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.
With opposition from two Republican women, Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Republicans did not have enough votes with their slim 52-seat majority to advance the bill.
Pence, a longtime opponent of abortion, arrived to cast the vote breaking the 50-50 tie — and will be expected to do so later Thursday on final passage.
"We just saw a historic moment," said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) "It is a sad day for the United States Senate."
The measure rolls back a regulation finalized at the end of President Obama's administration that explicitly prevented states from denying federal Title X family planning funds to clinics, like Planned Parenthood, that also provide abortion services.
Under longstanding practice, no federal funds can be used for abortions, but federal family planning money can flow to the clinics to provide other healthcare services.
Some Republican-led state governments had been moving in recent years to choke off Title X funds from any clinics that offered abortion service. The Obama rule sought to prohibit such practices.
The bill Thursday, sponsored by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), has already cleared the House.
It is part of a series of bills being passed by Congress under the so-called Congressional Review Act, which allows federal regulations put in place during the final days of the previous administration to be undone by simple majority passage.
Passage by the Senate later Thursday would send it to the White House for President Trump's signature.